Staff turnover is a significant risk in software development. With every departure from your company, vital knowledge could be lost, morale damaged, and productivity reduced. As a result, your project could suffer.
The ability to recruit and retain skilled team members is vital.
In this blog, we discuss the staffing crisis facing many software companies, the risks posed to client projects, and how Bluefruit’s own employee-centric culture allows us to attract talented professionals who are eager to stay.
In this blog post:
- Why is tech turnover so high?
- The serious consequences of losing a team member
- How to recruit and retain skilled employees
- Outsourcing your software project
“The Great Resignation” made headlines in recent years as vast numbers of workers, from a wide range of industries, handed in their notices. Businesses struggled to fill empty positions. The technology sector felt this shortage of workers more acutely than most others. However, employee “churn” is not a new phenomenon; it’s a constant concern for tech employers.
Talented tech professionals are in constant high demand. In the UK, there were 870,000 such vacancies between January and May 2022 alone. Without enough skilled people to fill these roles, it is an employees’ market. Any company that can’t keep its people happy risks losing them to competitors who can.
Consequently, many tech employers struggle with recruitment and retention as staff chase better prospects. This could be a higher salary, more interesting projects, or a better work culture.
Losing a valued developer, tester, analyst, or team lead can have far-reaching consequences for a team’s integrity and a project’s success. These include:
- Reduced productivity
- Increased workload for the remaining team
- Knowledge/skills deficits
- Damage to team morale
- Lack of guidance and support
- Further resignations
- Additional costs for hiring and training new employees
At Bluefruit, we don’t struggle to retain talent. Our staff turnover is far below the industry average.
We believe that this is due to our culture of empowerment and investing in our people. At its most simple, this is trusting that people want to succeed and improve and granting them the tools and freedom to do so. As a result, we are able to build and maintain high-performing teams.
Here are some of our key strategies to help you attract and retain skilled workers:
Retention costs less than recruitment
Some companies see experienced developers as poor value for money. The rationale is: “Why have an expensive senior engineer when we could hire three graduates for the same price?”
The answer to this is simple: The senior engineer is more valuable.
In his book, “The Loyalty Effect”, Frederick Reichheld proposed that companies should focus on customer retention over winning new clients. He argues that by better serving the clients you have, building trust and strengthening your relationship, you can produce higher quality work more efficiently.
At Bluefruit, we apply this ethos to staffing, too. Unlike established team members, new hires carry high costs. They:
- Take time and money to recruit
- Are often not as skilled in the specialist areas we frequently work in
- Might not be familiar with our tools, systems and work methodology
- Are not immediately productive
- Do not know our clients or industry requirements
By working to meet the needs of our existing employees, we produce and retain highly skilled individuals that deliver more and more value the longer they stay. If your workers are stagnating and no longer cost-effective, it’s likely because the work culture is holding them back.
Culture begins at recruitment
The way you approach recruitment can tell candidates a lot about your culture.
Pre-interview tasks can be a great way to measure ability and ensure only those with the relevant skills become part of your team. While it might be tempting to submit applicants to a host of challenges, remember that your applicants’ time is precious. Many people work multiple jobs or have other responsibilities that demand their free time.
The same goes for interviews. Many people don’t have the time to attend multiple interviews—even remotely. Be flexible on dates and times and take up as little of your candidates’ time as necessary.
Promote training and independent learning
Tech professionals tend to share something in common—a desire to learn and continuously improve. It’s important that they are encouraged to pursue this as it improves:
- Knowledge of industry trends and new technologies
- Quality and competitiveness of company services
- Job satisfaction
At Bluefruit, we actively encourage everyone to engage in learning, regardless of their department or role. Regular one-to-one interviews with a line manager allow team members to discuss any training they’d like to pursue and the resources required. We also fund weekly training sessions from external providers and give employees the opportunity to go to conferences.
Grow in-house talent
Ten years ago, Bluefruit advertised for two positions: a developer and a tester. The developer role, which required previous experience, received only three applications. The tester role, which did not ask for prior experience, received over 100 applications.
At the time of writing, more than 55% of current Bluefruit employees have come from our homegrown pipeline. That is, they joined as junior testers and have progressed to a different role or were acquired through one of the programs we run: graduate workshops, college outreach, apprenticeships, and more.
We realised we had struck gold; There was a wealth of talent out there that wanted to work in tech but had no prior experience. We could hire candidates with the right raw skills—highly methodical, enquiring, persistent, and so on—and train them into experts.
The original junior tester we hired is still with the company; he leads one of our development teams.
Provide empowerment, autonomy and trust
Research has shown a positive correlation between autonomy, satisfaction, and productivity. Meanwhile, unhappy, overworked teams produce lower-quality work and pose a risk of quitting.
At Bluefruit, we empower people to work how they work best—whether that’s the equipment and software they use, the processes they employ, the hours they work, the environment they operate in, or even the snacks in the kitchen.
Our most recent Employer Net Promoter Score (eNPS) survey, which rates employee satisfaction and loyalty, gave us a score of 53 (on a scale of -100 to 100), which is considered “excellent”.
Empowerment runs deeper than this, however. We strive for psychological safety, through which every person feels:
- Safe to learn
- Safe to contribute
- Safe to challenge the status quo
Our free ebook lets you learn more about psychological safety in software development.
Not everyone can do what Bluefruit does. Clients often tell us they would love to adopt a similar company culture to reduce their high turnover of skilled people, but significant organisational barriers make it impossible for them to do so. For instance, their security protocols might insist that everyone work on-site within certain hours, which puts off anyone that wants to work remotely or flexibly.
If you’re struggling to hire or retain software teams, consider outsourcing. However, bear in mind that not all outsourced teams are equal. It takes months to build a high-performing software team. Consequently, an established software development house such as Bluefruit will provide stronger, more efficient teams than a recruiter can.
Other advantages include:
- High levels of expertise and specialisation: A recruiter can find you a team with the necessary skills, but what about deep expertise?
- Efficiency: A recruiter’s team might need time to align their ideas, communication, tools, and work method. Well-established teams are on the same page from day one,
- Ongoing relationship: The knowledge a team acquires about your company and product can be utilised in future projects, increasing efficiency while reducing risks.
Ultimately, if you’re outsourcing software development, their staffing problems are your staffing problems. Choosing a company with a culture of empowerment will ensure you get high-performing, well-integrated teams that are far more likely to stick around.
If you require a development team for an embedded software project, get in touch. We’ll be happy to talk it over with you.
Are you looking to develop a new product or have an existing one?
For over 20 years, Bluefruit Software’s embedded software engineers and testers have worked with many different clients. Our work has included software development for clients producing products across manufacturing, scientific instruments, medical and more. No matter your project stage, we can help.
Did you know that we have a monthly newsletter?
If you’d like insights into software development, Lean-Agile practices, advances in technology and more to your inbox once a month—sign up today!Find out more